Sunday, September 26

Strategy or hasty tacticism: What are politicians playing?

What gives away this vertigo?

There is unanimity when it comes to interpreting the political upheaval experienced these days in historical keys: none of this would have happened in the days of bipartisanship. “But that was blown up in 2015 and what followed was not a new system, but an unstable scenario. The parties of the new politics are leaking and the panorama is readjusting “, understands the political scientist Cristina Monge. The volatility of Spanish political life has not started in 2021. We only have to remember the four general elections that took place between 2015 and 2019. But now new factors are coming together that help raise the temperature. “The pandemic has increased polarization and everyone is very nervous. Weakness leads them to sharpen their cunning », warn Paloma Roman, Professor of Political Science at the Complutense University of Madrid. Spain today has more mixed governments than in its entire history, but the coalition seems to continue to be a pending issue for the country’s political culture. «The parties are not used to governing with other formations. They do not know how to manage differences or reach agreements, “he says. Jorge Santiago, director of the International Center for Government and Political Marketing (CIGMAP) of the Camilo José Cela University. And this weakness is equally noticeable in the regional governments as in Moncloa. “If the coalition were more solid, Iglesias would have had a harder time leaving the vice presidency,” he interprets Ignacio Sánchez Cuenca, Professor of Political Science at the Carlos III University.

The result is a way of doing politics that is reminiscent of TV series but that only manages to generate discredit


Has tacticism replaced strategy?

None of the movements carried out by the parties in the last two weeks responds to a citizen demand. In all cases, it has been the electoral calculation and self-interest that have motivated the rudder strokes, a way of acting that, according to experts, has to do with the combustible weather that you breathe. “Politicians today live anchored in short-termism and only think about themselves. There are no country or city projectsThey do not talk about education or taxes, they are not concerned about their formations or citizens. The personalization of politics is greater than ever, “denounces Santiago. As a result of this urgency, more personal than political, the carousel of decisions that we have recently witnessed has been more reminiscent of a game of short dribbles than of a long-term strategy approach.

“They make quick and thoughtless decisions to save difficult situations, but they do not calculate the consequences”observes Roman. «The first movement of this episode was premeditated, but they did not know how to see the aftershocks that it could have. Instability leads politicians to act with excess tacticism, “adds Sánchez Cuenca. Only the offices where these decisions were made know the variables that were put on the table, but this succession of maneuvers transmits a feeling of being run over and hastily. “Yes, there has been too much tacticalism, and also bad strategists who designed wrong strategies. Didn’t Ciudadanos really appreciate that Ayuso was waiting for the moment to do what he has done? ”Asks Cristina Monge.

Pablo Iglesias talks with a deputy in Congress.

Politics turned into a Netflix series?

Last Tuesday, the More Madrid candidate for the presidency of the Madrid community, Monica Garcia, rejected the invitation of Iglesias to go together to the elections with this argument: “Madrid is not a Netflix series”. Beyond the irony – and the pinch – that the excuse carried, with that phrase the regional leader focused on a perception that seems to have been installed lately in the public, especially after the last two weeks: Spanish political life increasingly resembles a series of palace intrigues. The information saturation to which the population is subjected ends up generating, according to experts, phenomena of overacting in politics. «The dynamic is very perverse because, in the end, it seems that what is not spectacle does not matter. This leads bad strategists to move when everyone is moving, which is just the moment to be quiet “, explains Cristina Monge, who adds:” This way of doing politics reveals the need for today’s politician to be present, to be seen , generate headlines. And, in addition, in an increasingly accelerated way due to the immediate communication that we have. We live in the society of the spectacle».

Who wins and who loses in this situation?

“From this hubbub those who defend that ‘everyone is equal'”, alerts Sánchez Cuenca, recalling that the index of confidence in political formations is bottoming out, not reaching 5%. Political disaffection is also accentuated, Paloma Román abounds, because swings of this type “They discredit the leaders” as people have the feeling that they are “just doing their thing”. If, in addition, citizens observe that, in the midst of a pandemic, politicians dedicate themselves to “playing Parcheesi” the show it can benefit the extreme right, Cristina Monge thinks. What is clear is that when the political class indulges in strategic games and appeals to emotions, risks are run. «It can generate waves of irrationality and conflictive social situations. You can not implement public policies when the mobilization is done at the cost of a polarization that divides society in two, “reflects the professor of political science Fernando Jimenez Sánchez. A thesis that shares Marta Fraile: «In the long term, it is scary that democracy will evolve along that line.

“Didn’t Cs really appreciate that Ayuso was waiting for the moment to do what he has done”, says Monge


In highly polarized societies, if absolute majorities are achieved, decisions can be made that are not in the general interest but that of those who support you. There are always clearly identified winners and losers as a consequence of political decisions, and that is not good. Analysts agree that “short-termism” will not come for free: “We are gambling the system. It will have a cost for everyone ”, warns Jorge Santiago.

how do you get out from here?

It does not seem easy to break the dynamics of a political class trapped in a spiral that distances them from the citizens. The analysts’ diagnosis exudes pessimism and predicts a long period of instability until the relationship between parties and voters is restored. Sánchez Cuenca predicts “changing coalitions, fragile governments and frequent elections every less than four years.” What has been done wrong to get here? Jiménez Sánchez believes that the answer must be sought in the Transition, when the parties began to invade all social spheres. «The level of influence that the parties have in Spain is exceptional. It is not the same in other countries, where an organized civil society has been consolidated that does not depend on public money and does not have to do calculations to see if the current government will like this or that. ” In his opinion, unions, businessmen, associations and foundations should have their own financing channels and “exercise counter-power” so that the parties do not make their cloak a garment. “Now,” he agrees, “there is no pressure for leaders to behave responsibly.” It also suggests looking at the reforms that our neighbor Portugal has made to achieve a high level of independence of the Public Administration and prevent the politicization that characterizes the Spanish.

“Italianization” of Spanish politics?

In the countries around us there are also examples of instability like the one we are experiencing right now. The clearest is Italy, where the average life of governments was very low until the arrival of Silvio Berlusconi, adds sociologist Ignacio Sánchez Cuenca, from the Complutense University of Madrid. Is Spanish politics becoming ‘Italianized’? Maybe yes, Marta Fraile replies, introducing a profound nuance: “There, at least, there is a President of the Republic who has moral authority. There is no such figure here. ‘

On the other hand, in countries with a tradition of coalition governments such as the Nordics, fluctuations can be seen, but “neither so abrupt nor in contexts as harsh as that of a pandemic,” observes Paloma Román.

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